Police State – Has the ACPO gone into business for itself

Some countries require Police record information as part of their immigration, visas, work permits and residency acceptance processes. This is the case for the USA: ‘Under United States visa law, people who have been arrested at anytime are required to declare the arrest when applying for a visa.’ This applies to all those that have been arrested even if never convicted.

The way to get details of your – blank or otherwise – police record is to make a subject access request using the Police National Computer (PNC) Form 3019B. This is a right given by the Data Protection Act 1998. The act stipulates that a reply must be received within 40 days as long as the necessary fee has been paid. The fee is decided by the relevant data controller up to a maximum of £10 and the Police do charge the maximum.

With very little fanfare, a piloted trial by the ACPO has recently started in which four countries will no longer accepting PNC record extracts for their visa procedures. Instead you will need a police certificate:

    The ACPO Criminal Records Office is piloting an initiative to provide Police Certificates for Visa purposes. The four countries involved in the pilot are Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America.

So who authorised the ACPO to go into business using state collected information?.

There's no press release from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) I could find. Searching the Hansard (or They work for you) does not bring any result so this doesn't appear to have been debated in Parliament at all.

Nothing either on the websites of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Department for Transport, the Home Office or the Ministry of Justice (sponsor of the Information Commissioner's Office).

The new form on the ACPO site, a Word file, does not include any issuance date, but the document properties reveal that it was created by the Hampshire Constabulary on 2008-01-15.
The US Embassy is requiring new visa applicants to furnish a new style police certificate from the ACPO and those that have already applied for a PNC data subject access have only until 2008-08-15 to appear for interview. For a piloted trial, it looks rather definitive.

The websites of the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand embassies do not appear to have been updated yet to reflect the changes (with the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website even including out of date URLs to the Metropolitan Police Service website).

Here's a summary of the differences:


PNC data subject access ACPO police certificate
Provides ‘[I]nformation that may be held about you on the Police National Computer’ Unclear
The form states: ‘ACRO will carry out extensive authentication exercises including searching various databases.’
Validity 12 months 6 months
Cost £10 paid to the local police force £35 for standard service (£70 for a premium service) paid to ‘HPA’ (apparently the Hampshire Police Authority)
Processing time Within 40 days (Data Protection Act requirement) Aimed to be within 10 working days (2 working days for the premium service)
Requirements Proof of identity (returned), fee and form 3019B (less than a page) Proof of identity (retained), photograph, fee and Police Certificate Application Form (two pages)
Declaration and photograph to be countersigned by a guarantor
Who handles the requests National Indentification Service (NIS)
All data subject access requests are under the authority of the Information Commissioner's Office
ACPO Criminal Records Office (ACRO)

These new police certificates appear to work outside the constraints of any law and any debate, they are entirely governed by the ACPO and the agreements it made with several embassies. The list of databases queried is not known and what will be communicated is not yet known either (someone who has gone through the process may detail what the result reveals). The fee has more than tripled. The only positive is that it is speedier, but even that is not guaranteed: ‘ACRO will aim to produce all police certificates (standard service) within 10 working days.’

And the ACPO is most likely free to change any aspect of this scheme as it chooses.

Why introduce a paralegal process when there's already one in place that seems to do the job? If the PNC data subject access process was not adequate for visa requirements of some countries then this should be explained, debated by Parliament and put under the authority of the Information Commissioner's Office.

Is this how our Stalinist government now works, by decree, or, is this another example of Common Purpose and its graduates at senior levels within the police force using their newly acquired skills and 'Leading without Authority'.

HatTip Gizmonaut

About IanPJ

Ian Parker-Joseph, former Leader of the Libertarian Party UK, who currently heads PDPS Internet Hosting and the Personal Deed Poll Services company, has been an IT industry professional for over 20 years, providing Business Consulting, Programme and Project Management, specialising in the recovery of Projects that have failed in a process driven world. Ian’s experience is not limited to the UK, and he has successfully delivered projects in the Middle East, Africa, US, Russia, Poland, France and Germany. Working within different cultures, Ian has occupied high profile roles within multi-nationals such as Nortel and Cable & Wireless. These experiences have given Ian an excellent insight into world events, and the way that they can shape our own national future. His extensive overseas experiences have made him all too aware of how the UK interacts with its near neighbours, its place in the Commonwealth, and how our nation fits into the wider world. He is determined to rebuild many of the friendships and commercial relationships with other nations that have been sadly neglected over the years, and would like to see greater energy and food security in these countries, for the benefit of all. Ian is a vocal advocate of small government, individual freedom, low taxation and a minimum of regulation. Ian believes deeply and passionately in freedom and independence in all areas of life, and is now bringing his professional experiences to bear in the world of politics.
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2 Responses to Police State – Has the ACPO gone into business for itself

  1. Anonymous says:

    Even apart from the very valid concerns you raise, this is causing a lot of heartache for people trying to get through the immigration procedures for the countries outlined on the ACPO website as 'accepting' the new forms.
    Canadian Immigration officials so far it seems have accepted some people's temporary visa applications with ACPO form as supporting document, and sent others back saying the new form is 'insufficient'. ACPO are not responding to emails regarding this either.

  2. jameshigham says:

    Italy, of course, already handle this as part of police business – the Questura.

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